Texas doctor says he performed abortion in defiance of new state law

A Texas doctor revealed on Saturday he performed an abortion in defiance of a new state law that bans most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, setting up a potential test case of one of the measures most restrictive abortion policies in the country.

In an opinion piece published in the Washington Post under the headline “Why I Violated the Extreme Abortion Ban in Texas,” physician Alan Braid, who has performed abortions for over 40 years, said practicing one on September 6 for a woman who, although still in her first trimester, was beyond the new state limit.

“I acted because I had a duty of care to this patient, as I do to all patients, and because she has a fundamental right to receive this care,” wrote Dr Braid. “I fully understood that there could be legal consequences – but I wanted to make sure Texas didn’t get away with its attempt to prevent this blatantly unconstitutional law from being tested.”

Dr Braid’s disclosure was the latest – and perhaps the most direct – salvo from abortion right supporters fighting to end the law, which bans most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, even before that many women do not know they are pregnant. The law makes no exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.

Even before its disclosure, Dr Braid, who operated abortion clinics in Houston and San Antonio as well as Oklahoma, was already challenging the law in court. Its clinics are among the plaintiffs in an ongoing federal lawsuit to overturn the measure.

On September 1, the Supreme Court, in a trial-motivated 5-4 decision, refused to immediately block Texas’ new law. The majority stressed that it did not rule on the constitutionality of the law and did not intend to limit “procedurally appropriate challenges” to it.

The Department of Justice on Tuesday asked a federal judge to issue an order that would prevent Texas from enforcing the law, known as Senate Bill 8, which was passed with strong support from Republican leaders of State.

The justice ministry argued in its emergency motion that the state passed the law “to prevent women from exercising their constitutional rights,” reiterating an argument made by the ministry last week when it sued Texas to prohibit the application of the disputed legislation.

At the center of the legal debate over the law is a mechanism that essentially backs up private citizens, rather than government officials, to enforce the new restrictions by prosecuting anyone who performs an abortion or “aids and encourages” the procedure. Claimants unrelated to the patient or clinic can sue and recover legal fees, as well as $ 10,000 if they win. The patients themselves cannot be prosecuted.

“I understand that by offering an abortion beyond the new legal limit I am taking a personal risk, but this is something I firmly believe in,” wrote Dr Braid.

Nancy Northup, chief executive officer of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is already representing Dr Braid in the pending trial of its clinics, said in a statement that he had “courageously stood up against this blatantly unconstitutional law” .

“We stand ready to defend it against the lawsuits that SB 8 threatens to unleash against those who provide or support access to constitutionally protected abortion care,” she said in a statement.

Texas Right to Life, an anti-abortion group that sought advice on any doctors who might break the new law, said in a statement that it “was reviewing this claim but we doubt it was a simple matter. legal blow. “

“The abortion industry has rolled back its 16 previous attempts to prevent this law from saving lives so far and it could be another attempt,” the group said. “However, there is a four-year statute of limitations for any violation and the Pro-Life movement strives to ensure that the Texas Heartbeat Act is fully enforced.”

In an interview on Saturday, Dr Braid declined to say whether the woman whose abortion he performed on September 6 had been told that his procedure could be part of a test case against the new law. “I am not going to answer questions about the patient under any circumstances,” he said.

He said he had consulted with lawyers from the Center for Reproductive Rights and hoped that by publicly stating that he had performed an abortion, he could contribute to the campaign to strike down the law.

“I hope the law will be overturned,” he said, “and if that’s what does, that would be great.”

In his opinion piece, Dr. Braid noted that his career began with a residency in obstetrics and gynecology at a San Antonio hospital on July 1, 1972, just before Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion.

“In the hospital that year, I saw three teenage girls die from illegal abortions,” he wrote. “One that I will never forget. When she arrived in the emergency room, her vaginal cavity was full of rags. She died a few days later from massive organ failure caused by a septic infection.

Roe v. Wade, he writes, “allowed me to do the job I was trained to do. Then, this month, “everything changed” with the Supreme Court’s decision not to block Texas law.

“I have daughters, granddaughters and nieces,” wrote Dr Braid. “I believe abortion is an essential part of health care. I have spent the past 50 years caring for and helping patients. I can’t stand idly by and watch us go back to 1972.

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